Aids conference kicks off today

The 22nd Aids conference which kicks off today in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has a huge task ahead in the face of a damning report released last Thursday by the United Nations’ Aids agency indicating that current progress in halting new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths was too slow and the set global targets might be missed.

BY Phyllis Mbanje in Amsterdam, Netherlands

According to the statistics in the report, over 1,8 million people became infected with HIV and 940 000 people died from Aids-related illnesses in 2017. These figures were slightly less than those of 2016, meaning there was little progress in slowing down new infections.

However, the report couldn’t have come at a better time when the world’s health experts are coming together to advance knowledge about HIV, present new research findings and promote and enhance global scientific and community collaborations in synergy with other development sectors.

Running under the theme Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges”, the International Aids Conference is the largest indaba on any global health issue and was first convened during the peak of the Aids epidemic in 1985.

The conference provides a unique forum for the intersection of science, advocacy and human rights groups. Each conference is an opportunity to strengthen policies and programmes that ensure an evidence-based response to the epidemic.

The conference aims to promote human rights-based and evidence-informed HIV responses tailored to the needs of particularly vulnerable communities — including people living with HIV, displaced populations, men who have sex with men, people in closed settings, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people, women and girls and young people — and collaborate in fighting the disease beyond country borders among them.

The week-long conference will be attended by notable speakers former United States President Bill Clinton, who will give the keynote address on Thursday.

US Congresswoman for the 13th District of California, founder and co-chair of the Congressional HIV/Aids Caucus, Barbara Lee, will also feature on the programme as well as actress Charlize Theron, who will give the opening address tomorrow.

South Africa Vice-President David Mabuza, who is also the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, which coordinates the country’s response to the HIV and Aids, will also present at one of the fora.

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